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Monday, August 18, 2014

What If

It's "Harry Potter" (Daniel Radcliffe) meets "Ruby Sparks" (Zoe Kazan) in a hilarious romantic comedy about friends without benefits and those awkward moments. She has a boyfriend and he has dumped his girlfriend, but there is definitely an attraction and a chemistry between them. Audiences will be drawn in by this charming couple, the witty dialog, and the crazy antics. Radcliffe and Kazan are terrific as the playful besties with a good supporting cast in this quirky film dealing with love and friendship.

Alien gives it 3 ½ "fool's gold sandwich" stars out of 4.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

When The Game Stands Tall

The De La Salle High School football program in Concord, California, had set an incredible 151-game winning record and then the "Streak" ended. This inspired by a true story film focuses on how the coaches, and the players would handle this devastating loss and what they would do next.  This powerful and inspirational story is about how these people handle themselves under adversity. The movie has some great football sequences, but this film isn't really about football, winning games, or setting records. The coaching philosophy was not about winning games or being perfect. The legendary coach Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel) merely wanted to help young boys to grow up and to prepare them to be dependable in the real world. Some parts of the film felt contrived until the actual footage clips played during the credits.

Alien gives it 3 "Brotherhood, Spartans Forever" stars out of 4.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Expendables 3

Barney Ross (Sylvester Stallone) and the boys are back for more fun and war games. A daring prison escape, a mission gone awry, a time for new recruits, and a rescue mission are part of the plot-line Sly uses to prove older aging heroes of yesterday shouldn't be discounted in action films as well as in making action films. There are thrilling super stunts to tantalize the eyes and clever one-liners hinting at inside jokes. Sly rounds up another bunch of a dozen or so (proving anyone is can be replaced) of his pals to have fun in the sun shooting it up and blowing it up as well as taking verbal jabs at each other. The script plays to each individual's strengths and adds some new blood to the franchise to freshen it up. See Rocky/Rambo go toe-to-toe with Mad Max/Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson). You get exactly what you expect here. It's mindless fun for thrill-seeking junkies. A funny but appropriate karaoke song plays at the end.

Alien gives it 3 "dog-tags jangling" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

If I Stay

After a serious car accident, life hangs in the balance between heaven and earth for Mia Hall (Chloë Grace Moretz). Alien's favorite Hit Girl aka Mindy McCready has grown up now and has given up her blades for the cello. This is an out-of-body experience told mainly through flashbacks about a loving family, a passion for music, and falling in love. Moretz is terrific as she takes you through the highs and lows of a teenager's love for family, music, and her first boyfriend. Music fills her life and this movie. She is born to cool rocker parents but her passion is classical music. She falls for a budding rock star but her dreams are of Julliard. This emotional tearjerker is about family, love, and sacrifice. 

Alien gives it 3 ½ "feeling her heart's passion" stars out of 4.

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Giver

It's a thinking man's "Divergent" in another dystopia where Elders (like Meryl Streep) control the people through the sameness of a colorless & emotionless society following strict rules. When the children come of age, they are assigned their life's job. One special kid, Josh, has been selected to become the Receiver of Memories from the Giver (Jeff Bridges). Of course, as Josh learns the truths withheld from the people, he is compelled to upset the status quo to their "ideal" world. Although Alien liked the premise and the techniques to convey it, those same effects in the long run work against holding my interest in this slow moving plot through to the anti-climatic end. You may be better off reading this children's book because this looks like it may have been better on paper. Katie Holmes and Taylor Swift also co-star. Perhaps the 75 minute red carpet event intro on east coast tape delay wore me out for this 100 minute movie.

Alien gives it 2 "will the truth set you free" stars out of 4.

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Dolphin Tale 2

The drama at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium continues in this sequel about Winter, the bottle-nose dolphin with the prosthetic tail. The entire original cast (including Harry Connick Jr, Ashley Judd, Morgan Freeman, and Kris Kristofferson) have returned to reprise their roles along with writer/director Charles Martin Smith. The touching new stories of two other dolphins, Panama & Hope, as well as a green sea turtle named Mazey have been added. Rufus the pelican is also back for some comic relief. Winter's handicap has attracted and is an inspiration to others who have lost limbs including "Soul Surfer" Bethany Hamilton (who makes an appearance as herself). This is an excellent family film about protecting and saving marine creatures. The inspirational real event footage plays at the end of this movie.

Alien gives it 3 "rescue, rehabilitation, and release" stars out of 4.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3D)

Cowabunga, Dudes!

Those heroes in a half shell are back, but they aren't your "PG" childhood fantasy turtles anymore. These boys from "beneath" the hood have been re-branded bigger & badder and rougher & tougher with more street cred under their "PG-13" upgrade. The Michael Bay action machine has also transformed the evil Shredder. Here, he becomes a cross between a samurai Decepticon and Edward Scissorhands. Bay's now trademark incredibly wild car chase sequences tries to push it to another level to top all previous efforts. What a smart move to recreate an edgier version for all those original TMNT fans who have outgrown their innocent Saturday morning cartoon violence days. The plot is only the basic run-of-the-mill rescue the damsel in distress and stop the evil villain from world domination, but who cares as long as these super turtles kick butt in spectacular fashion. Of course, they do and all the while dropping pop culture references. This action-packed thrill ride is great fun. Amphibians Assemble!

Alien gives it 3 ½ "brotherhood" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The Hundred-Foot Journey

It's "Chef" meets "War of the Roses" meets "Master Chef" when fate leads an Indian family to the South of France where they decide to rebuild their family business. The matriarch (Helen Mirren) of an upscale classic French restaurant resents patriarch (Om Puri) opening his traditional Indian cuisine just a hundred feet across the street. This comedy/drama features culture clash shock, a little romance, racism issues, a lot of laughs, and some fantastic looking dishes. This tasty treat is a charming story about not judging a book my its cover and not forgetting your roots as you aspire to improve yourself. This feast for the eyes and soul is beautifully shot, has a wonderful cast, and has a terrific storyline.

Alien gives it 3 ½ "Michelin" stars out of 4.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Into the Storm

It's "Twister" meets "Tornado Alley" meets "Jackass" when storm chasers, thrill seekers, and high school students document the onslaught of unprecedented cyclones touching down in the town of Silverton. These professional and amateur photographers as well as innocent bystanders get trapped in the storm of the century when several tornadoes merge. The special effects are tremendous as these funnel clouds lift and shred everything in their path. It's disaster film survival time as audiences wonder who will live and who will be blown away in spectacular fashion. The film is intense as you experience the sheer power of nature with the roar of its winds enhancing the effect.

Alien gives it 3 "whipping up a fire storm" stars out of 4.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Get On Up

Chadwick Bozeman really brings it as he goes from Jackie Robinson in "42" to the Godfather of Soul and Funk, James Brown. Bozeman is absolutely convincing in this entertaining biopic revealing the man behind the music. From his impoverish childhood to his rise to fame, Brown is a man with a vision, not to be denied, and doing it his way as told through flashbacks and theatrical asides. This film is a James Brown greatest hits tribute recreating his signature style and electric dance motives as we journey through history crossing paths with the likes of Little Richard, Mick Jagger (one of the film's producers), LBJ, and Martin Luther King Jr. Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, and Dan Aykroyd play key roles with "The Help" director Tate Taylor at the helm. This is a powerful, emotional, and humorous look at a music legend.

Alien gives it 3 ½ "got more funk in the trunk" stars out of 4.

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